European Parliament

The European Parliament is one of the Institutions of the European Union. It is made up of 751 members, directly elected by European citizens in the European Parliament elections.

Where is the European ParliamentThe European Parliament is based in Brussels, where it holds its committee and party meetings, but holds most of its plenary meetings in Strasbourg.

How many MEPs are there? There are 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Each EU member state has a certain number of MEPs, in proportion to its population.

How are the MEPs chosen? The MEPs are elected in each member state, at the same time across Europe every five years. The most recent elections were in May 2014.

How many British MEPs are there? There are 73 British MEPs, elected by proportional representation in 9 English regions, plus Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In the May 2014 election UKIP won 24 MEPs, Labour won 20, the Conservatives won 19, the Greens won 3, SNP won 2, and the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein, Democratic Unionists, an Ulster Unionists each won 1 seat.

Do the MEPs sit as national delegations or European political parties? The MEPs sit as European parties rather than as national delegations. So, for example, Conservative MEPs sit in the European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) group, while Labour MEPs sit in the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group. The two largest political groups are the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left S&D group.  MEPs vote more along European party lines than national lines.

What does the European Parliament do? The main power of the European Parliament is to amend and adopt EU legislation, together with the member state governments in the Council. The EP shares control of the EU budget with the European Council, ratifies international treaties, oversees the work of the Commission, and elects the Commission (after each EP election). The EP also has the power to sack the Commission, by a two-thirds majority vote.

To read more about the European Parliament click on our explainer page. You can also read our European elections and Brexit report.

For more about the other institutions in the European Union, see our explainer here.

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